How Oral Pigmentation Varies Across Ethnic Groups: The Science of Smiles

The Science of Smiles: How Oral Pigmentation Varies Across Ethnic Groups


No one wants to think about it, but many of us will have to face losing our teeth at some point in our lives. This can be an emotional experience, so it’s important to know what’s going on while you’re getting your teeth taken care of (whether it’s cleaning, whitening or restoring). One thing that can happen during this process is the appearance of dark spots in your gums, which are known as oral pigmentation. Although they look scary, they have nothing to do with disease, and there are several ways to prevent them and make them fade away naturally.

Hypomelanotic vs Hyperpigmented Gummy Smile

Gummy smile is a term used to describe the presence of dark pigmentation in the gums, which can result from two different types. The first type is hypomelanotic, which refers to darker pigmentation and results from melanin that has been deposited beneath the gum tissue and into the dermal matrix allografts. The second type is hyperpigmented, where there are deposits in the epithelial cells on top of the gums and skin around it. Current treatment options for physiological pigmentation include laser therapy, dermal matrix allografts and cryosurgery. Epithelial abrasion procedures such as scaling or root planing are done to remove what causes the overproduction of melanin in these areas.

Causes of darker gums

There are many reasons for the variations in oral pigmentation including genetics and ethnicity. The reason for the variations is due to the blending of our global population. Excess oral pigmentation is most often found in those with dark skin. One current treatment option for physiological pigmentation is laser therapy which may be used by dentists to remove or reduce the coloration on the gums. Laser therapy may be used as a treatment option, but it’s not guaranteed to work every time so your dentist might recommend other procedures like laser ablation, dermal matrix allografts and cryosurgery, epithelial abrasion procedures, or free gingival grafts depending on how severe your condition is.

Recommended Treatments

Current treatment options for physiological pigmentation are laser therapy and dermal matrix allografts and cryosurgery. The latter, in particular, is a surgical procedure that is used to remove excess pigmentation in the gums. The most common cause for this condition is inflammation of the gums. Another option for treatment, albeit more costly, is free gingival grafts. This process involves transplanting tissue from other areas of the mouth that have less or no pigmentation to areas with excessive pigmentation. A less invasive and relatively inexpensive treatment option available on the market today is laser therapy.

What drugs cause oral pigmentation?

The gingival sulcus is where the junction between the tooth and gums meet. There are many medical terms used to identify dark pigmentation in this area such as physiologic and diffuse pigmentation. Gingivectomy is a dental procedure in which teeth are removed from this region, usually because they have been worn down or damaged by excessive brushing or gum disease. The reason for the variation in oral pigmentation is due to the blending of our global population. Excess oral pigmentation is most often found in those with dark skin.

Why do I have a black dot on the inside of my cheek?

A black dot on the inside of your cheek is most likely a dental implant. Implants are used to replace missing teeth and act as anchors for dentures. Implants are made from titanium and become natural parts of your mouth, so no one will be able to tell if you have them unless they’re told. The only way to remove an implant is through a surgical procedure called a gingivectomy which is not typically covered by insurance because it’s considered cosmetic surgery.

What increases oral melanin pigmentation?

Oral pigmentation may be increased by the following factors: genetics, aging, smoking, or using certain medications. Additionally, people with darker skin are more likely to have oral pigments than those who have light-colored skin. This is because melanin is a natural pigment found in the cells that create our skin color and it also increases oral pigmentation.

What disorders causes pigmentation in the oral cavity and skin?

Skin pigmentation is a well-known condition that can be caused by many different disorders and treatments. For example, vitiligo and melasma are skin conditions in which the skin loses its natural pigment (depigment) to develop patches that are lighter or darker than the unaffected areas. Other causes of skin pigmentation include hemochromatosis, erythroderma, and Addison’s disease.

Pigmentation in the oral cavity is also due to a variety of factors such as physiologic and diffuse pigmentation.

How is tongue pigmentation treated?

In general, there are many treatment options for excess oral pigmentation. Laser treatments offer the quickest and most effective method of reducing the appearance of dark spots in the mouth. In this procedure, a laser is used to break down melanin and lessen the occurrence of dark coloration. Dental bleaching also has been successful in correcting or lightening intense dark colors. Other treatments include tooth whitening, cavity filling, veneers or crowns, dental surgery and botox injections.

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